Laura and I are planning on launching our discussions on infant feeding in the As He Leads Us series next week. Thank you for your grace and patience as we have taken time to deliberate our next topic.
Back when SortaCrunchy was new and on a good day I had four readers, I rarely hesitated to pull out the old soapbox and preach up a good post. I guess I've become more reserved in the time that has passed since then, more likely to hash out more sensitive topics in less public forums than this blog allows. Every now and again, however, I'll come across a topic or discussion and I get all itchy and preachy.
Consider yourselves warned.
One of my columns in TweetDeck is set up to alert me to Twitter posts that mention "Attachment Parenting." I've noticed a couple of tweets (still feels incredibly awkward to use "tweet" as part of my every day vernacular) linking readers to this article - a "rant" against Dr. Sears' Theory of Attachment Parenting. The writer of this rant rails against practicers of AP as parents as those who don't allow their children to play sports for fear that they might get hurt and ones who raise their children with a sense of entitlement and no work ethic. AP parents are portrayed as ineffective, permissive, overprotective, spineless wimps who are literally so attached to their children their only goal in parenting seems to be smothering, not loving their children.
You can imagine that I got all kinds of mad when I read this rant. I took a deep breath or many and tried to analyze why Attachment Parenting would be, in the eyes of this writer, connected to all things negative about today's parenting culture. As you can see in reading this rant, the author is genuinely misinformed about what Attachment Parenting really means.
He lists the Eight Principles set forth by Attachment Parenting International as the guiding philosophies behind this theory of parenting. But long before there was an international advocacy group devoted to to educating and encouraging parents in the ways of AP, there was The Baby Book. I am fortunate enough to have a First Edition of The Baby Book published in 1993 by pediatrician Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha, a registered nurse. The Sears coined the phrase "attachment parenting" based on years of experience from their pediatric practice and from their own experiences as parents to eight children.
1) to know your child
2) to help your child feel right
3) to enjoy parenting
That's it. Pretty uncomplicated, right? Simple. Healthy. Helpful. Throughout the book, they discuss various practices to promote attachment - things like breastfeeding and sharing sleep and babywearing - but at the heart of the theory of attachment parenting is the core belief: discover how to be the most effective parent for your baby by getting to know your baby through responding to his needs.
Somewhere along the way, the idea of being attached to your baby became linked to a far more common parenting approach - over-parenting your children. From playing Mozart for her as she grew in the womb to orchestrating the most advanced playgroups to encourage her intellectual growth to obsessively filling her time with all the best in the way of activities and summer camps and college prep courses, it's obvious that some parents do have a hard time stepping back from the lives of their children.
But let's be clear - attachment parenting and over-parenting are as opposite as can be.
In fact, rather than smothering their child through each stage of growing up, many AP parents are far more drawn to "let your preschooler play in the dirt, and your kindergartener deal with the classmate who pinches her" as Attachment Parenting author Katie Allison Granju writes in her article "Attachment Parenting vs. Over-Parenting." As Lisa Belkin writes in her New York Times article, "Let the Kid Be," there is a new wave of parents who are exploring "slow parenting" or "free-range parenting" as an alternative to the rigors, pressures, and competition of the over-involved approach. Writer Ann Kroeker will soon be releasing a book titled, "Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families" that speaks to this very movement.
Rather than advocating a vice-like grip on the umbilical cord by projecting your own unmet and unfulfilled needs of childhood onto the parenting experience, the end-goal of attachment parenting has always been growing and nurturing your child to healthy, timely, age-appropriate independence. There are a myriad of anthropological and sociological explanations for the rise of the helicopter parent, but to place blame on or make connection with the Theory of Attachment Parenting is to be woefully, grievously misinformed.
Check your facts before you rant.
* On a related note, if you have access to this month's (May/June 2009) issue of Mothering magazine, there is an incredible article detailing "Attachment Theory in Everyday Life" that references study after scientific study confirming and affirming that "healthy attachment, via attuned parenting, equips human beings for resilience, success, and emotional, psychological, and physiological well-being." The article is well-worth the $5.95 cover price for that issue - it will serve as a great reference for many parents.
* Also, coincidentally, today I'm filling in for Megan again at 5 Minutes for Parenting and sharing my own personal struggle with counting down the days until we take our first Big Step towards independence.
photo by Diane S Murphy